- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- I'm in debt. I am a true American.
- Larry Appleton, in Perfect Strangers.
- I hold every man a debtor to his profession.
- Francis Bacon, Maxims of the Law, Preface; Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 181.
- DEBT, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver.
- As, pent in an aquarium, the troutlet
- Swims round and round his tank to find an outlet,
- Pressing his nose against the glass that holds him,
- Nor ever sees the prison that enfolds him;
- So the poor debtor, seeing naught around him,
- Yet feels the narrow limits that impound him,
- Grieves at his debt and studies to evade it,
- And finds at last he might as well have paid it.
- Barlow S. Vode
- There is, of course, a gold mine or a buried treasure on every mortgaged homestead. Whether the farmer ever digs for it or not, it is there, haunting his daydreams when the burden of debt is most unbearable.
- Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, Chapter 2 (1945).
- Chi vuole che la quaresima gli paia corta, si faccia debito per pagare a Pasqua.
- Giordano Bruno, Candelaio, Act IV, Scene XVII. — (Lucia.)
- Translation: He who wants Lent to seem short, should contract a debt to be repaid at Easter.
- Translation reported in Harbottle’s Dictionary of quotations French and Italian (1904), p. 275.
- It shows nobility to be willing to increase your debt to a man to whom you already owe much.
- Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, II, 6, 2 (43 BC).
- There are two things that bestow consequence; great possession, or great debts.
- Reverend Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832), English cleric and writer. Lacon; or, Many Things in Few Words (1823).
- I owe you one.
- George Colman the Younger, The Poor Gentleman, Act I. 2; Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 181.
- Anticipated rents, and bills unpaid,
Force many a shining youth into the shade,
Not to redeem his time, but his estate,
And play the fool, but at the cheaper rate.
- William Cowper, Retirement, line 559; Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 181.
- "My other piece of advice, Copperfield", said Mr. Micawber, "you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and—and, in short, you are for ever floored. As I am!"
- Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1849–1850 ), chapter 12, p. 185.
- Debt is the prolific mother of folly and of crime.
- Benjamin Disraeli, Henrietta Temple, Book II, Chapter 1 (1837).
- Slight was the thing I bought,
Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best—
God! but the interest!
- Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), American poet. The Debt (1903).
- Debt, grinding debt, whose iron face the widow, the orphan, and the sons of genius fear and hate; debt, which consumes so much time, which so cripples and disheartens a great spirit with cares that seem so base, is a preceptor whose lessons cannot be forgone, and is needed most by those who suffer from it most.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, Chapter 5 (1836).
- Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Compensation,' Essays, First Series (1841).
- You must pay at last your own debt. If you are wise, you will dread a prosperity which only loads you with more.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Compensation.
- Poverty demoralizes. A man in debt is so far a slave; and Wall-street thinks it easy for a millionaire to be a man of his word, a man of honor, but, that, in failing circumstances, no man can be relied on to keep his integrity.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wealth (1860).
- Wilt thou seal up the avenues of ill?
Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill!
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Suum Cuique; Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 181.
- Creditors have better memories than debtors; and creditors are a superstitious sect, great observers of set days and times.
- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack (1758).
G - L
- What is debt anyway? A debt is just the perversion of a promise. It is a promise corrupted by both math and violence."
- David Graeber. Debt: the First 5000 Years (2011).
- Let every man, every corporation, and especially let every village, town, and city, every county and State, get out of debt and keep out of debt. It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.
- Rutherford B. Hayes, Diary (July 13, 1879).
- The debt was the most sacred obligation incurred during the war. It was by no means the largest in amount. We do not haggle with those who lent us money. We should not with those who gave health and blood and life. If doors are opened to fraud, contrive to close them. But don't deny the obligation, or scold at its performance.
- Rutherford B. Hayes, letter to William Henry Smith (December 19, 1881).
- Live within your means, never be in debt, and by husbanding your money you can always lay it out well. But when you get in debt you become a slave. Therefore I say to you never involve yourself in debt, and become no man's surety. If your friend is in distress, aid him if you have the means to spare. If he fails to be able to return it, it is only so much lost.
- Andrew Jackson, letter to his ward Andrew Jackson Hutchings (April 18, 1833).
- You must, to get through life well, practice industry with economy, never create a debt for anything that is not absolutely necessary, and if you make a promise to pay money at a day certain, be sure to comply with it. If you do not, you lay yourself liable to have your feelings injured and your reputation destroyed with the just imputation of violating your word.
- Andrew Jackson, letter to Andrew Jackson, Jr. (April 14, 1835).
- Be assured that it gives much more pain to the mind to be in debt, than to do without any article whatever which we may seem to want.
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to his daughter, Martha Jefferson (June 14, 1787).
- One of the greatest disservices you can do a man is to lend him money that he can't pay back.
- Jesse Holman Jones, chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and later Secretary of Commerce, The New York Times Magazine (July 2, 1939), p. 4.
- The human species, according to the best theory I can form of it, is composed of two distinct races, the men who borrow, and the men who lend.
- Charles Lamb (1775-1834). 'The Two Races of Men', Essays of Elia (1823).
M - R
- Such was the origin of that debt which has since become the greatest prodigy that ever perplexed the sagacity and confounded the pride of statesmen and philosophers. At every stage in the growth of that debt the nation has set up the same cry of anguish and despair. At every stage in the growth of that debt it has been seriously asserted by wise men that bankruptcy and ruin were at hand. Yet still the debt went on growing; and still bankruptcy and ruin were as remote as ever.
- Thomas Babington Macaulay, History of England (1849-1861), Volume 8 (The Complete Writings of Lord Macaulay, Volume 8), chapter 19 (1899).
- The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
- Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
for loan doth oft lose both itself and friend,
and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
- Debtes et mensonges sont ordinairement ensemble ralliés.
- Debts and lies are generally mixed together.
- François Rabelais, Pantagruel (1532), Book III, Chapter V; Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 181.
- The slender debt to Nature's quickly paid,
Discharged, perchance with greater ease than made.
- Francis Quarles, Emblems, Book II, Emblem 13; Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 181.
S - Z
- Leve aes alienum debitorem facit, grave inimicum.
- Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
- It's dynamite to spend future earnings. I have had a taste of it myself, and it's mighty bitter. A debt is a debt, whether it's margins or mortgages; and debts are all the same, no matter how you try to camouflage 'em. You never get much out of 'em except trouble. On the farm or in Wall Street, if you use the other fellow's money, it costs you a lot more than it's worth.
- Sue Sanders, Our Common Herd, Chapter 25 (1940).
- 'Tis good to be known,
To have all of thy own.
Who goeth a borrowing,
Goeth a sorrowing.
- Thomas Tusser, Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie (1573), point 6.
- He that dies pays all debts.